Sweet and Lowdown: A Crude Analysis of the Libyan Liberation

Written by Chris Floyd 23 August 2011 11911 Hits

Another war for oil? Surely not! But just to be on the safe side, the world's oil barons are already moving in to seal some sweetheart deals on that sweet, sweet crude with the new, NATO-installed masters of Libya.

And guess what? It turns out that companies from the Western countries that eagerly rained tons of death-metal on the Libyan people are being given the inside track to the post-Gadafy gusher. Meanwhile, countries that had urged caution in humanely intervening with thousands upon thousands of bombs, drones and missiles to, er, protect human life now face relegation to the outer darkness.

As the New York Times reports, Libya's old colonial masters, Italy, are leading the way in the new scramble, even ere the Green Pimpernel has been found. They, along with other Western oil behemoths, are being welcomed with open arms by the peace-loving democratic rebels, who, er, murdered their own chief military commander just a few weeks ago. But for intervention skeptics like Russia, China and Brazil, there may be "some political issues" in renewing old deals and inking new ones, say the new regime's oil honchos. NATO si, BRIC no.

But remember. This is not a war for oil. Oil has nothing to do with it. Of course, you can find cranks and crackpots like, say, Patrick Cockburn, who has only been doing frontline reporting in the region for decades, coming out with nonsense like this, in a recent piece about the "murderous rebels in Libya":

"The enthusiasm in some 30 foreign capitals to recognise the mysterious self-appointed group in Benghazi as the leaders of Libya is at this stage probably motivated primarily by expectations of commercial concessions and a carve-up of oilfields."

But what does he know? Especially compared to progressive, peace-loving, war-hating supporters of the, er, war like Professor Juan Cole. As the professor himself tells us, he is someone "who has actually heard briefings in Europe from foreign ministries and officers of NATO members." I'll bet you haven't done that! (Although Patrick Cockburn probably has -- for decades. But never mind.) Anyway, Cole assures us that the very idea of oil playing any part in this noble endeavor is "daft," because Libya was "already integrated with the international oil markets."

Well, loath as one is to quibble with a man who has actually heard briefings from NATO officers and all, even the New York Times notes that:

Colonel Qaddafi proved to be a problematic partner for international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands. A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with. Some experts say that given a free hand, oil companies could find considerably more oil in Libya than they were able to locate under the restrictions placed by the Qaddafi government.

Less regulation, fewer restrictions, sweeter deals, more oil, higher profits -- no, there's nothing there to interest the oil companies. Or the governments they "influence" so persuasively -- and pervasively. So it must be true, as Cole asserts, that this noble endeavor was no more and no less than a humanitarian intervention designed to safeguard human lives (with those thousands of bombs and missiles), protect the right of free assembly (or at least the right to mill around in one of those wired, barricaded, kettled, corralled "free speech zones" now so prevalent in the freedom-loving, liberating lands of the West), and uphold "a lawful world order."

Cole now looks forward to seeing Gadafy and sons in the dock for war crimes, for, as he rightly notes: "deploying the military against non-combatants was a war crime, and doing so in a widespread and systematic way was a crime against humanity." Unless, of course, you quote "just war" theologians as you, say, conduct a widespread and systematic terror bombing campaign of defenseless villages in an allied nation with drone missiles, as Barack Obama has been doing in Pakistan from the moment he took office. But Cole "agree[s] with President Obama and his citation of Reinhold Niebuhr. You can't protect all victims of mass murder everywhere all the time. But where you can do some good, you should do it."

If only Gadafy had thought to quote a man whose "influence has been acknowledged by such recent leaders of American foreign policy as Jimmy Carter, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, [and] John McCain"! Perhaps that would have absolved him from the other crimes Cole lays at his door: "bankrolling brutal dictators and helping foment ruinous wars." Certainly none of our Niebuhr-quoting leaders have ever done anything like that!

In any case, the deed is done and now, as the Times headline says, "The Scramble for Access to Libya's Oil Wealth Begins." But the latter is just incidental, of course -- a spandrel, a happy accident, an unintentional by-product of a noble deed done by noble men for noble purposes. Oily business aside, the deed itself is something that should be celebrated by everyone -- including anti-war dissidents like Cole, or even rock-ribbed "anarchists" like Crispin Sartwell (whose call for "exhilaration" at Libya's NATO-bomb liberation receives an answer here from Arthur Silber). Only the dead -- the uncounted, forgotten dead, mangled and buried under tons of liberating metal -- might demur.

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Process of Elimination: The West's Rapid Slide Into Slaughter

Written by Chris Floyd 21 August 2011 6420 Hits

As it is written: "Though we seemed dead, we did but sleep." We have finally returned from a series of grueling and at times bewildering traversals of the planet in several directions. Still a bit dazed, we will shortly be back in fighting trim.

In the meantime, I would by no means insult your intelligence by suggesting you go immediately to Arthur Silber's site to partake of the feast of biting, bitter yet buoyant wit and slashing insight that he has produced during our time away. Surely it would be superfluous in me to point the readers of this site to Silber's work; surely your own discernment and good sense have already led you there on a constant and continual basis.

But on the off chance that some stray pair of eyes (among the ever-dwindling pack of peepers that wander by these precincts) have not yet hied to Silber -- do so, now. For there are ugly things afoot -- an acceleration of the already long-accelerating on-rush of the nations of the West into the hardest, most brutal kind of authoritarianism. It is happening on an array of fronts, aggressively, simultaneously, from every direction. As Silber notes in this landmark piece, "Caught Up in Nightmare: Killing Jack Rabbits":

The ruling class now visits on its domestic populations the same fate it has delivered for hundreds of years to those deeply unfortunate peoples who lived in targeted foreign countries. In their pursuit of power, wealth and dominion, the ruling class systematically brutalized, tortured, "relocated" and murdered those foreign peoples in vast numbers. (All this continues today, of course; see Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, et al.) ....

England and the United States are hollowed-out societies, with their former productive capacity vanishing at an ever-increasing rate. In close alliance with the State, the most powerful and wealthiest corporations continue to amass record profits, but only by siphoning up every last bit of wealth held by the numerically greatest, but otherwise weakest and most defenseless, part of the population. Every significant piece of legislation must be viewed in this context. This is true even of legislation which styles itself as concerning matters which would not appear to be directed to policing the "undesirable" elements of the population. Thus, Obama's heralded "health reform" bill, which I dubbed The Fuck You Act, has very little to do with providing health care, but everything to do with brutally controlling the weakest segments of society and extracting what little money they have left for the benefit of already vastly wealthy insurance companies and their constant partner, the State.

Although it is perilous to make such judgments as events continue to unfold, the evidence strongly compels the conclusion that we have entered the death spiral for the West's ruling class. The disfavored members of society have less and less economic resources of their own to be extracted, and fewer (and often non-existent) opportunities for improving them. Simultaneously (and inextricably connected to this point), the same disfavored members are increasingly unable to defend themselves in any area of their lives. The growing surveillance State watches over them day and night, privacy approaches the point of complete eradication, and the State continually adds to the weapons it uses to harass, intimidate, brutalize and imprison them. The State's methods of control are increasingly, brazenly explicit and crueler by the day. ...

If we broaden our perspective, and if we look beyond particular developments and attempt to grasp what is happening over a longer period of time, the nature of the horror that awaits us takes on a clearer shape: The West's ruling class is embarked on a program of killing and elimination. A general caution should be kept in mind. I'm not suggesting that this program is one that the ruling class has explicitly identified, even to itself, at least not necessarily. The ruling class is intent upon increasing its own power and wealth; in one sense, that is its only concern. I suppose, in some fantasy world, the ruling class would be content to enjoy its immense power and wealth while "ordinary" people pursue their own lives of contentment. This, of course, is the goal which the ruling class announces, and which it desperately tries to convince both itself and us is true.

But we don't live in that fantasy world. In this world -- and, I would argue, in any world where brute power is the final means of settling every dispute, especially when that power is consolidated in the State -- the ruling class seeks power and wealth by dominating and controlling the weaker segments of society. The ruling class may not set out to kill those people it finds unnecessary for its aims, but if the ruling class can maintain and increase its power and wealth only by eliminating them, it will eventually eliminate them. This is the logic of the ruling class's desires. It is certainly true that the ruling class could change much of this if it wished to: the productive capacity of both England and the United States could be reinvigorated, and much new wealth could be created and enjoyed by many more members of society. But the ruling class believes that would necessitate the diminishment of its power and wealth, so they will not consider the possibility seriously.

The ruling class dreamed a nightmare, and made it real. We are now caught up in it. For many of us -- certainly for me, and very possibly for you -- the end result is clear: the ruling class intends to kill us. Not today or tomorrow, the ruling class hasn't reached that point of desperation quite yet, but they'll kill us soon enough. We have no value to them; we're superfluous; we're not needed.

Here Silber is giving more eloquent and deeper voice to a theme I was trying to sketch out some years ago, in a piece called "Worm Turning." Written in 2004, it focused on the Bush family, then in power; but of course, the critique applied -- and applies -- far more generally to our thoroughly bipartisan elite. As I put it then (with slight editing here to broaden the point):

... Underneath all this bristling array there is nothing but a tiny white maggot of greed, wriggling and gorging on scraps of rotting meat. No deep beliefs or high ideals inform the [elitist] ethos, which can be boiled down to one sentence: Grab your pile and screw anybody who gets in the way. War, energy and corporate finance just happen to be where the money is at. And raw, secretive political power -- unfettered by courts, laws, legislators or public scrutiny -- is the most effective way to safeguard and augment these investments.

That is not to say that the [elitist] credo lacks all nuance. There is in fact a very important refinement to their wormy greed: Loot should always be obtained without the slightest risk to your own financial position. The "free market" must be shunned at all costs -- and manipulated by string-pulling, deceit and intimidation when competition is unavoidable. Thus the [elite] model is to cozy up to governments -- preferably strongman regimes free to ladle out public money to their favorites with no questions asked. ...

[Our elites] don't sit in dark corners and cackle over the idea of children being chewed to pieces by American bombs. Nor do their nostrils flare with righteous rage at the thought of homosexuality or abortion or nipples on national television. It's just that war profiteering, corporate rapine and cynical pandering to the public's worst instincts are the easiest way to get the unearned riches they crave ...

Perhaps if they could obtain these same privileges as easily by other, less horrific means, they would. As it is, they take the world as they find it, and go about their business without fretting over the consequences -- the dead, the ruined, the spreading hate, the poisoned planet. Why should they care? As the maggot cannot see beyond the meat, so too these men of greed-stunted understanding can see nothing of worth outside their own bottomless appetites.

Back to Silber, and to our garishly nightmarish present-day:

Before the ruling class finally eliminates the "undesirables," there is a necessary preceding step: the most disfavored, weakest elements of society must be demonized. I heard the following article first mentioned by Rush Limbaugh; it was quickly picked up by many conservative commentators (including self-identified "libertarians"). Limbaugh praised the article in glowing terms; he thought it identified the crucial issue in especially eloquent terms. For Limbaugh, the crucial issue was one made familiar in connection with history's bloodiest and most horrifying episodes of mass murder, although Limbaugh himself failed to note that fact. I'm sure it was merely an oversight. The crucial issue is, obviously, that the rioters are, as Limbaugh summarized it, "human only by virtue of their DNA." The rioters are not actually human at all; they are sub-human, animals deserving only to be put down.

There is much, much more in this single post by Silber -- including the deeper historic context of our landslide into eliminationism -- not to mention the other recent offerings: here, here and here. Again, if you have not yet read them, I urge you most strongly to go there and read them now.

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Draining the Poison, Hitting the Road

Written by Chris Floyd 11 August 2011 5301 Hits

Unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances put me on the road last week; now, foreseen circumstances are setting me on my way again. Again, I don't know the connectivity situation where I'm going, so posting might be light for the next several days -- or who knows, I might be blogging like a house on fire. (Or a London street on fire, as the case may be.) Sorry for the sporadicality this month, but it couldn't be helped. I'm hoping more regular programming will be resumed soon.

Meanwhile, here's a couple of things to pass the time. First up is a slice from the EP "Just One Plank" (for sale, cheap, here). It's called "Tonight I Will Dream," and was done with Nick Kulukundis.

 

 

And just for the hell of it, here is a primitive field holler captured on rickety equipment in the wilds of Glasgow, Scotland, a few weeks ago. A song about the "Sacred Parishes" of New Orleans, where "they drown the poison out of this whole land...." And man, is there a lot of poison to drain these days.

 

Sacred Parishes (Live) by Chris Floyd

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Riot Act: Some Wisdom Among the Wailers

Written by Chris Floyd 10 August 2011 5757 Hits

Run, fly, dash, scoot or ambulate yourself in some fashion as quick as you can to Arthur Silber's site, to read his masterful analysis of the rioting in England. There is much I would like to say what's going on here in my present stomping ground, but unavoidable circumstances prevent me from getting into it properly at the moment.

Fortunately, Silber is, as always, on the case, tying his own penetrating view (including the riots' larger significance) to an excellent piece by Hal Austin in Counterpunch. Again, I don't have time to do justice to Silber's post here; you'll have to go there right away and read the whole thing.

Many out there on the right, left and middle are wailing wildly of barbarians at the gate and the end of human civilization as we know it -- because of a few riots in a few parts of a few towns over a few days? Don't these wailers know anything at all about human history? I think we might have seen a few things more "nihilistic" than this over the years -- or even right now. How about the massive, endless, unending assault on the very idea of our common humanity being carried out, every single day, by the most powerful, most prosperous, most respectable, most "civilized" elites on the planet, with their savage Terror Wars and the "austerity" bombs of their Shock-Doctrine class wars? I mean, Jesus Herbert Walker Christ -- can a million dead Iraqis possibly compare to a handful of people grabbing some sneakers from a shop? Where is the true threat to our sense of humanity?

Anyway, ignore the wailers, and check out Silber and Austin for a broader, deeper, truer picture of these tumultuous events.

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Ishaqi Again: Another Day, Another Atrocity in the Endless Iraq War

Written by Chris Floyd 09 August 2011 9410 Hits

There was a raid in Ishaqi last week. Armed men crept upon the sleeping houses in the dead of night. Armed men stirring in the darkness, in a land still open, like a flayed wound, to violent death and chaos from every direction, many years after the savage act of aggression that first tore the country to pieces.

They crept toward the houses. They said nothing, gave no warning, could not be clearly seen, did not identify themselves. “Thieves!” someone shouted. Someone grabbed a rifle – one kept ready at hand to guard the sleeping family – and fired a shot to scare away the raiders.

But the men creeping in the darkness were not local thieves. They were soldiers of the foreign army that still occupied the land. Foreign invaders, accompanied by forces from the local army they had raised for the government they had built on the mound of a million rotting corpses.

Armed to the teeth with expensive gear bought with public money from bloated war profiteers in the invaders’ home country, the creeping men were not to be frightened off by a rifle shot fired blindly in the darkness. They saw the flash – and lit up the village with heavy gunfire and grenades. They called in a helicopter gunship hovering nearby to support them against the rifle of a villager awakened by the sound of unknown, unidentified, armed men creeping near his house and family.

In the tumult, a 13-year-old boy began running through the garden, frightened, confused, trying to escape the hellish metal flying all around him. But the metal found him; it tore into his fleeing body – the body of this scared, unarmed boy running away from the well-armed soldiers – the bullets tore into his body and killed him in the garden where he used to play.

The armed men  then stalked through the village. Kicking down doors, dragging people out, hogtied, and throwing them into the dirt.  They ransacked, they smashed, they ripped, they broke – and, like thieves, they stole.

“We heard gunfire near our house, and my son woke up and went to the garden because he was afraid,” said the boy’s mother, Nagia Gamas, 51. “They shot him and my husband.”

... Muhammad Farhan, a 62-year-old farmer in Ishaqi ... said Iraqi and American forces knocked down his door around 2 a.m. Friday, tied him and three of his relatives up and took them outside.

He said that the Iraqi and American forces searched his house, stole a check from him and took his brother’s passport. “The Americans were telling us we are liars and terrorists,” Mr. Farhan said. “Why do you attack us? We are just innocent people.”

It was just another night in the unending American war against Iraq. It was just another non-combatant death added to the million or more such deaths caused, by direct or collateral hand, by the illegal American invasion, now in its eighth year.

And it was just another atrocity in Ishaqi, where the American invaders and their colonial helpers had already inflicted horror and death on the area’s children in years past. The 13-year-old boy – who had been only five when the invasion began, so many years and so many deaths ago, probably knew the little children, some just a few months old, killed in the earlier attacks. As I noted here in March 2006:

We know that U.S. forces conducted a raid on a house in the village on March 15. ... We know that two Iraqi police officials, Major Ali Ahmed and Colonel Farouq Hussein – both employed by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government – told Reuters that the 11 occupants of the house, including the five children, had been bound and shot in the head before the house was blown up. We know that the U.S.-backed Iraqi police told Reuters that an American helicopter landed on the roof in the early hours of the morning, then the house was blown up, and then the victims were discovered. We know that the U.S.-backed Iraqi police said that an autopsy performed on the bodies found that "all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head."

We know that Ahmed Khalaf, brother of house's owner, told AP that nine of the [11] victims were family members and two were visitors, adding, "the killed family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children. The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death."

We know from the photographs that one child, the youngest, the baby, has a gaping wound in his forehead. We can see that one other child, a girl with a pink ribbon in her hair, is lying on her side and has blood oozing from the back of her head. ... We know from the photographs that two of the children – two girls, still in their pajamas – are lying with their dead eyes open. We can see that the light and tenderness that animate the eyes of every young child have vanished; nothing remains but the brute stare of nothingness into nothingness. We can see that the other three children have their eyes closed; two are limp, but the baby has one stiffened arm raised to his cheek, as if trying to ward off the blow that gashed and pulped his face so terribly.

Later, the Pentagon changed its original story about the raid, in which it claimed that "only" one man, two women and a single child had been killed. Following an "investigation," the Pentagon said that one terrorist had been killed, along with "three noncombatant" deaths and an estimated nine "collateral deaths." (As I noted at the time: The difference between these two categories is not explained. And of course it doesn't matter to the innocent people killed; whether they are "non-combatants" or "collaterals," they're still just as dead.) The invaders categorically denied that any children had been shot in the head. But the evidence indicated differently:

First is the photographic evidence: pictures taken of the aftermath by Agence France Presse, and a video that emerged this week on BBC. These clearly dispute the Pentagon's account, which holds that the house was first raked with gunfire, then attack by helicopter gunships, then finally bombed by American jets: a massive barrage of firepower that left the house in ruins. But the video shows that part of the house was left standing. The photographs, which have been widely available for months, show five dead children, one of them only a few months old. They have been laid out by grieving relatives. Their bodies show no signs of having been ripped up or damaged in the course of an all-out air and ground assault; as the BBC's John Simpson points out, they had not been crushed by the collapse of the house, as the Pentagon claimed. Instead, they are unmarked, their clothes dusty but in most cases untorn. In the photographs I saw, one child clearly has blood oozing from the back of her head, while the baby has a hole in his forehead, and other damage to his face. The other children are laid on their back, with their wounds invisible, their bodies remarkably whole. Simpson, shown viewing the film, said it was clear that the children had been shot.

Second is the testimony of the villagers, and of two officials of the U.S.-backed Iraqi police, Major Ali Ahmed and Colonel Farouq Hussein. These are men who risk their lives by their cooperation with the Coalition. The villagers say soldiers entered the house and killed the occupants; the house was later hit by the helicopter then bombed, apparently to cover up the killings, some of the villagers surmised. The Iraqi police said "all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head." Later, a Knight-Ridder reporter saw a preliminary report indicating that the 11 victims had multiple wounds. This tallies with Simpson's viewing, which showed that one of the dead children had been shot in the side. Everyone who saw or examined the bodies agreed that the victims had been shot, most likely by bullets from the large pile of American-issue cartridges found inside the house, which can also be seen on the video.

This was in March. Just a few months later, there was an even greater massacre:

So what happened on December 9 in the village of Taima in the Ishaqi district, on the shores of Lake Tharthar? The official U.S. military version states that unidentified "Coalition Forces" entered the village shortly after midnight and targeted a location "based on intelligence reports that indicated associates with links to multiple al-Qaeda in Iraq networks were operating in the area." During a search, they took heavy fire from a nearby building. Returning fire, they killed "two armed terrorists" but couldn't quell the attack, so they called in an airstrike that killed "18 more armed terrorists." ...

The identification of the victims as terrorists was made through a "battle damage assessment," said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver. "If there is a weapon with or next to the person or they are holding it, they are a terrorist," he said.

Garver firmly refused to identify the troops involved in the raid; he wouldn't even say if they were American, Iraqi, or from some other Coalition ally, the Daily Telegraph reports. "There are some units we don't talk about," he said. But the conclusions of the official report were unequivocal: 20 terrorists killed, no collateral damage. ...

But local officials from the U.S.-backed Iraqi government had a different view: they said the raid was a bloodbath of innocent civilians. Ishaqi Mayor Amir Fayadh said that 19 civilians were killed by the airstrikes that destroyed two private homes. Fayadh said that the victims included seven women and eight children. An official in the regional government of Salahuddin said six children had been killed. All Iraqi officials agreed that the victims were mostly members of the extended families of two brothers in the town, Muhammad Hussein al-Jalmood and Mahmood Hussein al-Jalmood, the NYT reports. ...

Soon after the attack, reporters and photographers from Associated Press and Agence France Presse arrived on the scene. They took pictures, shot video and talked to grieving members of the al-Jalmood family. Local police gave them the names of at least 17 of the victims, which indicated they were from the same family. The names of at least four women were among them. Many of the bodies had been charred and twisted beyond recognition; some were "almost mummified," AP reports. However, AFP videotaped at least two children among the dead.

When shown the pictures later, Garver said: "I see nothing in the photos that indicates those children were in the houses that our forces received fire from and subsequently destroyed with the airstrike." He did not speculate on where the dead children being mourned by family members after being pulled from the rubble of the bombed-out houses might have come from otherwise. Perhaps the al-Jalmoods kept them in cold storage for just such a propaganda opportunity.

All of this was back in the bad old days of George W. Bush. But it is still going on, and has been going on, throughout the tenure of the Great Continuer. And if the Nobel Peace Laureate has his way, it will keep going on. Read carefully the statement on the most recent raid by a PR mouthpiece for the invaders, where he bravely and boldly heaps all blame for any “collateral damage” on the colonial troops:

“This was an Iraqi-planned and -led counterterrorism operation,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, an American military spokesman, said in a statement. “The operation was enabled by U.S. support that included helicopters. Also, there was a small number of U.S. advisers taking part in the operation, although it was predominantly Iraqi forces, and they were in charge of all activities on the ground.”

“Advisers.” This is the new term-of-art for invasion forces. This is the word now being used by the Obama Administration and the Iraqi government in their relentless efforts to weasel out of the agreement to withdraw all American “military forces” from Iraq by the end of the year. This follows the line of the Peace Laureate’s earlier scam, when he claimed to have kept his promise to withdraw “all combat troops” from Iraq by simply renaming the tens of thousands of occupying soldiers left behind as “non-combat troops” – although they continued, and continue, to carry out combat missions. (And of course, the “withdrawal” agreement doesn’t include the thousands upon thousands of “security personnel” and mercenaries who will guard the vast embassy-fortress the invaders have built in the center of Baghdad.)

So we will no doubt see more of Ishaqi’s children shot and killed by occupiers and their colonial proxies in the months and years to come. We will no doubt see more villages and neighborhoods invaded in the dead of night by armed men creeping up on their houses, kicking down their doors, shooting, looting, breaking and beating, in this now-hidden, now-forgotten but still-ongoing act of mass murder.

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Fatal Vision: Last Bad Deal Gone Down

Written by Chris Floyd 01 August 2011 9231 Hits

(UPDATED BELOW)

(UPDATED AGAIN)

So the deed is done. The "debt ceiling" crisis has been "resolved" by a further maniacal destruction of the commonweal, in a bipartisan pact that completely ignores the murderous imperial wars as the primary drain on the nation's treasury. As we noted here yesterday, the deal also sets up an unaccountable politburo (the special "Super Congress" committee) that will remove further coddling of the rich from the democratic process altogther.

However, I do feel I must defend our president from the charges of "weakness" and "cowardice" and "capitulation" that are pouring in on his noble head from all sides. Many learned Thebans are advancing the idea that Barack Obama has somehow "capitulated" to "extremists" who "forced" him into this "terrible deal."

The truth of course is that the Republican "extremists" served the same function for Obama as the "fatal vision" of the daggers did for Macbeth: "Thou marshal'st me the way that I was going." Obama came into office declaring his intent to strike a "grand bargain" on the deficit, eagerly putting Medicare, Social Security and other programs on the table for "reforms." He made clear from the start that his first and foremost allegiance was to the elite institutions of the financial markets (and the militarist oligarchy they feed); hence the $13 trillion offered up to Wall Street as compared to the transparently inadequate £700 billion offered as "stimulus" to the rest of the country -- money that was like tossing a few grains of sand into an ocean of economic need ... and which is now gone anyway.

Obama had many options for avoiding this "crisis," long before it came to a head. He didn't take those options because, like all good disaster capitalists, he wanted and needed a crisis of this sort to enact the brutal economic agenda he has openly advocated from the beginning. The result, of course, will be further impoverishment and diminishment in the lives of millions of ordinary people, for years to come -- and, ironically, the eventual collapse of the monstrous system that supports the ravenous elite that Obama serves with such panache.

History affords few examples of the political elite of a country commiting such an act of national suicide in order to protect the already super-rich from the slightest impingement of their already colossal fortunes.

I suppose Easter Island might serves a pertinent precursor.

UPDATE: As you might expect, Arthur Silber has more to say on the theme of Obama's intentions, and the gruesome comedy of progressive denunciations of his "weakness." Go there immediately to get the full force of Silber's masterful (and insightful) spleen. But here is a taste:

And lots of people are celebrating or moaning about Obama's "stupidity," "weakness," "incompetence," and so on. I must confess to having a weakness for the popularity of this self-deluding ploy. In the midst of horror, it's a wonderful momentary relief to enjoy a hearty laugh. I especially like the ongoing theme at Digby's House of Mirth and Lies: "If only Obama understood all these issues the way I do, if only he were smart like me, none of this would be happening!" No, I'm not providing links to all this crap. If you've been following the latest "crisis" in even a cursory fashion, you've seen scads of pieces repeatedly announcing all these themes. ....

I'll say it again. I suggest you slowly sound out the words this time. Maybe you'll begin to understand what they mean.

When one considers the destructive powers of the weapons at his command, as well as the bloodily murderous enthusiasm with which he uses them, and when one contemplates the enormous powers he enjoys entirely apart from and in addition to those weapons, Obama is the single most powerful individual in the entire history of humankind.

I'll say it once more. I'll bold it. Again, sound out the words:

Obama is the single most powerful individual in the entire history of humankind.

This is the goal toward which Obama diligently worked for years. This is what he wanted: the power of life and death over countless millions of people, and potentially over all of humanity. During that time, he was bracingly clear about what he would do once he achieved that cherished goal. Some of us told you all about this in the summer of 2008, and even a year earlier. Obama told you exactly what he would do. Most people convinced themselves -- contrary to all the available evidence, even when that evidence directly contradicted their illusions -- that Obama would do precisely the opposite of what he himself said he would do.

There is much more. Get the hence and give it a read.

UPDATE 2: I'll be hitting the road tomorrow on some rather pressing business. Not sure at this point about the connectivity situation where I'm going; I might be out of contact for several days. Or might not. But if you make a comment and your comment doesn't show, that just means I'm not able to hook up to hand-cranked comment approval machine that we have to use here to help ward off hackers and spammers. Anyway, as the man says, I'll be back when I get back. Thanks for your patience.

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If the Republic Had Not Died A Long Time Ago, This Would Indeed Be the Death of the Republic (Reprise)

Written by Chris Floyd 31 July 2011 10356 Hits

Looking at the "deal" being formed to solve the "debt ceiling crisis," I thought it was appropriate to break out the old headline I used a few years ago. The current reference, of course, is to the extraordinary "special committee" or "Super Congress" which the deal intends to establish. This is an unaccountable politburo which will be able to circumvent all normal democratic (and republican) principles and issue budget-slashing, tax-cutting legislation that cannot be debated or amended, but simply approved or rejected by the rest of the now-powerless representatives and senators.

That's not all. If the politburo -- handpicked members split evenly between the two gangs of thieves and poltroons that now hold sway on Capitol Hill -- can't agree on just how much they want to gut the budget and cut taxes for the rich, why then, this will trip a series of "triggers" which will automatically start gutting, slashing and cutting, without any vote by the democratically elected representatives whatsoever. And surely it would be superfluous in me to point out that these unaccountable "superpowers" will soon stretch to cover other areas of legislation beyond budgeting and taxes.

Behind all the flim-flammery of this manufactured "crisis", we are watching the creation of a new form of government -- or rather, the further mutation of the new form of government that the United States has been crawling toward for a long time. We called it a "neo-feudal oligarchy backed by a militarist police state" here the other day. No doubt there are many other ways you could describe this murderous, ravenous, lopsided monstrosity of a system. But the one thing you cannot call it is a "republic".

As I wrote in my original piece, back in February 2008:

I don't know what will come next. I don't know if the United States can crawl out of the filthy pit of empire and tyranny over the next few decades and claw its way toward some new manifestation of democracy -- or if it will just keep sinking, raging, rotting, mutating further into a war-and-torture state that must feed constantly on human flesh to survive. Of course, I hope for -- and will work toward -- the former, the new manifestation, although I honestly don't expect to see such a thing in my own lifetime. But whatever will be, one thing is certain now: the constitutional republic of the United States is a dead letter, a relic of history.

And nothing that happens in November -- when one imperial factotum or another gets their turn at the top of the greasy pole -- will change that basic fact. The Freedom Road is a long road -- and we're still a long way from taking even our first steps on that journey. We've got miles of wilderness to cut through yet.

As you can see, I was still an incurable optimist in those halcyon days. We are not, of course, merely a "long way" from taking our first steps on the journey out of our madness; we are whole parsecs away, and hurtling at light-speed in the opposite direction.

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Talking with Madmen, Playing for Time

Written by Chris Floyd 29 July 2011 8432 Hits

(UPDATED BELOW)

Pressing matters of various kinds have kept me from my appointed rounds in these precincts of late – and there will probably be further lacunae over the next few weeks. My apologies. We hope to be back to more regular programming soon.

Circumstances aside, there is another factor at play in the recent dearth of posting: the inherent difficulty of saying anything meaningful about a political world that has become almost totally hallucinatory. This is currently being exemplified by the debt-ceiling “crisis.” Every single element of the public presentation of this “crisis” is transparently, even brazenly false. It is obvious – even to many of our ever-somnolent Establishment commentators – that the situation is an entirely manufactured crisis designed solely to impose shock-doctrine “austerity” on the American system, thus completing its long, painful mutation into a neo-feudal oligarchy backed by a militarist police state.

One can speculate till the cows come home about why this is happening – and why it is being so meekly accepted not only by the institutions of civic society but also by the population whose lives, communities and futures are being so aggressively degraded by this savage class war. But what one cannot do is to make a sensible comment about “current events” (as this phrase is usually understood), because the “events” themselves are nonsensical. Treating surface data of these "events" as substantive realities – as most “serious” commentators do – is like  engaging in debate with a madman lost in some infinitely variegated imaginary world. And this sense of irreality holds across the spectrum of our public life, especially in our endless, monstrous wars and the operations of our vicious and voracious “security” organs.

There is a reality behind these massive deceptions and pathological self-delusions, of course. And the main purpose of this blog is to unearth and examine whatever fragments of reality one can pull from the meaningless slagheap that surrounds us. But just at the moment, it’s difficult to find the time and energy necessary to do this properly. We’ll get back to the task as soon as possible.

UPDATE: Speaking of debt ceilings and things monetary, I've been reading a fascinating book by anthropologist David Graeber -- described by the New York Times as "a scholar whose books are used in college classrooms around the world and an anarchist who is a card-carrying member of the Industrial Workers of the World." He also teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London. An interesting chap, as they say.

His latest book is Debt: The First 5,000 Years. I picked it up by chance the other day at what is probably the best bookstore in the world, Blackwell's, in Oxford. Here is Graeber's own take on what the book is about:

This book is a history of debt, but it also uses that history as a way to ask fundamental questions about what human beings and human society are or could be like -- what we actually do owe each other, what it even means to ask that question. As a result the book begins by attempting to puncture a series of myths .... In the common-sense view, the State and the Market tower above all else as diametrically opposed principles. Historical reality reveals, however, that they were born together and have always been intertwined. The one thing that all these misconceptions have in common, we will find, is that they tend to reduce all human relations to exchange, as if our ties to society, even to the cosmos itself, can be imagined in the same terms as a business deal ....

[In later chapters], I return to the question of the origins of money to demonstrate how the very principle of exchange emerged largely as an effect of violence -- that the real origins of money are to be found in crime and recompense, war and slavery, honor, debt, and redemption. That, in turn, opens the way to an actual history of the last five thousand years of debt and credit ... Many of the discoveries here are profoundly unexpected: from the origins of the conceptions of rights and freedoms in ancient slave law, to the origins of investment capital in medieval Chinese Buddhism, to the fact that many of Adam Smith's most famous arguments appear to have been cribbed from the works of free-market theorists from medieval Persia ... For a very long time, the intellectual consensus has been that we can no longer ask the Great Questions. Increasingly, it's looking like we have no other choice.

Graeber also explores some alternative approaches to the myths that have pervaded our societal and individual consciousnesses so thoroughly that we can't even conceive of anything else:

[One example of a different approach comes] from "the words of an actual hunter-gatherer -- an Inuit from Greenland made famous in the Danish writer Peter Freuchen's Book of the Eskimo. Freuchen tells how one day, after coming home hungry from an unsuccessful walrus-hunting expedition, he found one of the successful hunters dropping off several hundred pounds of meat. He thanked him profusely. The man objected indignantly:

"Up in our country we are human!" said the hunter. "And since we are human we help each other. We don't like to hear anybody say thanks for that. What I get today you may get tomorrow. Up here we say that by gifts one makes slaves and by whips one makes dogs."

... The refusal to calculate credits and debits can be found throughout the anthropological literature on egalitarian hunting societies. Rather than seeing himself as human because he could make economic calculations, the hunter insisted that being truly human meant *refusing to make such calculations, refusing to measure or remember who had given what to whom, for the precise reason that doing so would inevitably create a world where we began "comparing power with power, measuring, calculating" and reducing each other to slaves or dogs through debt.

It's not that he, like untold millions of similar egalitarian spirits throughout history, was unaware that humans have a propensity to calculate. If he wasn't aware of it, he could not have said what he did. Of course we have a propensity to calculate. We have all sorts of propensities. In any real-life situation, we have propensities that drive us in several different contradictory directions simultaneously. No one is more real than any other. The real question is which we take as the foundation of our humanity, and therefore, make the basis of our civilization.

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Fade to White: The Tender Treatment of Christian Terror

Written by Chris Floyd 23 July 2011 8976 Hits

There is not much to say about the horrific events in Norway, beyond this general observation. If a white, Christian nationalist carries out such atrocities, then he is, inevitably and always, a "lone nut," an outlier, emblematic of nothing but his own individual lunacy. But if a Muslim-- or any person of color or non-white ethnicity -- does anything similar (or indeed, far less serious in scope), why then, that perpetrator is emblematic of an entire race or religion or ethnic group: a group which must then be laid under collective suspicion, and collective harrasment, by the "security" forces (and the chattering classes) of the West.

In the coming days, we will hear much about the tormented psychology of the Norwegian terrorist ... who, as Glenn Greenwald notes, will no longer be known as a "terrorist" at all -- precisely because he is white, Christian and a "patriot."

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A Ballad of Blood and Iron: Will You Be Free?

Written by Chris Floyd 21 July 2011 5991 Hits

You can tread the path of militarism -- ride it high, slog through it low, make it the very form of your national being and your personal worldview -- but where, exactly, will it lead? Here's a brief examination of this question.

 

Will You Be Free by Chris Floyd

Will You Be Free?

When the guns no longer sound
When the dead are in the ground
When the foe hangs from the tree
Will you be free?
Will you be free?

When blood and iron rule the day
When ash and bone mix with the clay
And choke the fruits of victory
Will you be free?
Will you be free?

When the children of the slain
Cry for revenge to ease their pain
Lost in shadows you’ll never see
Will you be free?
Will you be free?

When the fear comes round again
And they call for troops to send
To some new war across the sea
Will you be free?
Will you be free?

Lyrics and music © Chris Floyd

This was recorded with the remarkable multi-instrumentalist Nick Kulukundis, who also produced the track. This is a slight reworking of a song that originally appeared on the album Wheel of Heaven. Final photo,"Taxpayer," © Lee Mayr.

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Support Group: Documenting the Peace Laureate's Progressive Atrocities

Written by Chris Floyd 17 July 2011 12546 Hits

Do you support the policies and political fortunes of President Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate? Then this is what you support: cowardly, cold-blooded mass murder. You support mass murder. You support the shredding to pieces of innocent people, many of them children, week after week, month after month. You support the murder of children. You support the cultivation of extremism and hatred: hatred aimed at you, and your children, for the mass murder -- the state terrorism -- committed in your name by your progressive president. You support extremism. You support hatred. You support terrorism.

The Guardian tells the remarkable story of Noor Behram, who for three years has been rushing to the scene of the long-distance, remote-control drone strikes launched by the Peace Laureate against undefended villages in Pakistan. Braving roadblocks, suspicious (and shell-shocked) locals, and secondary strikes -- like terrorists the world over, the Laureate's Droners like to draw people to the site of one strike, then fire another at those who've come to help the first victims -- Noor Behram has taken his camera to some 60 killing fields in North and South Waziristan. As the Guardian notes:

Noor Behram says his painstaking work has uncovered an important – and unreported – truth about the US drone campaign in Pakistan's tribal region: that far more civilians are being injured or dying than the Americans and Pakistanis admit. The world's media quickly reports on how many militants were killed in each strike. But reporters don't go to the spot, relying on unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. Noor Behram believes you have to go to the spot to figure out whether those killed were really extremists or ordinary people living in Waziristan. And he's in no doubt.

"For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant," he said. "I don't go to count how many Taliban are killed. I go to count how many children, women, innocent people, are killed." ...

According to Noor Behram, the strikes not only kill the innocent but injure untold numbers and radicalise the population. "There are just pieces of flesh lying around after a strike. You can't find bodies. So the locals pick up the flesh and curse America. They say that America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims.

"The youth in the area surrounding a strike gets crazed. Hatred builds up inside those who have seen a drone attack. The Americans think it is working, but the damage they're doing is far greater."

Even when the drones hit the right compound, the force of the blast is such that neighbours' houses, often made of baked mud, are also demolished, crushing those inside, said Noor Behram. One of the photographs shows a tangle of debris he said were the remains of five houses blitzed together.

Do you support this? Do you support the progressive president, the Peace Laureate? Then this is what you support:

The photographs make for difficult viewing and leave no doubt about the destructive power of the Hellfire missiles unleashed: a boy with the top of his head missing, a severed hand, flattened houses, the parents of children killed in a strike. The chassis is all that remains of a car in one photo, another shows the funeral of a seven-year-old child. There are pictures, too, of the cheap rubber flip-flops worn by children and adults, which often survive: signs that life once existed there. A 10-year-old boy's body, prepared for burial, shows lipstick on him and flowers in his hair – a mother's last loving touch.

If you support the president, this is what you support. (And yes, if you support his so-called opponents in our bipartisan militarized state -- where the only political "issue" is how much more we can give to the rich while expanding our state terror overseas -- this is what you support as well.) A boy with the top of his head torn off. From a thunderbolt of metal and explosives hurled at him from thousands of miles away. Is this what you support?

Or maybe that's the wrong question. If you support the president, it's obvious that you do support this. I suppose a better question is the one that Arthur Silber has been asking, over and over, for years, as the Atrocity Machine of the rightwing Bush regime morphed effortlessly into the Atrocity Machine of the progressive Peace Laureate:

Why do you support this? Why do you support it? Why do you support?

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The Needle and the Damage Done: Toxic Fallout From the CIA's Human Shield Operation

Written by Chris Floyd 15 July 2011 8167 Hits

When I first saw the stories about the CIA’s super-cunning covert op – setting up a fake vaccination scheme to try to get DNA from Osama bin Laden's children in Abbottabad – I immediately thought: How many innocent people are going to die or suffer needlessly from this unconscionable tainting of medical programmes by Terror War subterfuge? How many people will now turn away from ostensibly genuine humanitarian efforts, wary of being used by foreign spies infiltrating their country? How many more genuine medical relief and health care workers will now be targeted as agents of militarist agendas in troubled lands already rightly suspicious of the murderous spy games being played in their midst?

Now Médecins Sans Frontières has voiced the same concerns, in public blast on Thursday which called the CIA's toying with the lives and health of vulnerable children "grave manipulation of the medical act."

Of course, the story has already been forgotten in the American media echo chamber, now solely obsessed with the epic battle between Obama and the Republicans to see who can degrade the largest number of American lives and usher in oligarchic rule the fastest. [For more on this, see the superb piece by Arthur Silber.] So we'll let the Guardian re-set the scene:

The CIA recruited a Pakistani doctor and health visitors before the operation in May that killed Bin Laden in Abbottabad in northern Pakistan, to try to ascertain whether the al-Qaida leader was living in the compound. The doctor, Shakil Afridi, set up a vaccination drive for Hepatitis B in the town in order to try to gain entry to the Bin Laden compound and obtain DNA samples from those living there. ..

However, on the ground in Abbottabad the Guardian discovered that while the vaccine doses themselves were genuine, the medical professionals involved were not following procedures. In an area called Nawa Sher, they did not return a month after the first dose to provide the required second batch. Instead, according to local officials and residents, the team moved on, in April this year, to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.

These vaccines are not effective unless the full course of doses is administered. The CIA thus suborned genuine medical professionals, without their knowledge, and then left the children being used as -- dare we say it? -- human shields for the spy agency still at grave risk of contracting Hepatitis B. Having established their front in the poorest part of town, luring in the most vulnerable, they simply "moved on." What of the children of Nawa Sher? Who cares? They're expendable.

The Guardian story spells out the larger implications:

"The risk is that vulnerable communities – anywhere – needing access to essential health services will understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid," said Unni Karunakara, MSF's international president. "The potential consequence is that even basic healthcare, including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most."

"It is challenging enough for health agencies and humanitarian aid workers to gain access to, and the trust of, communities, especially populations already sceptical of the motives of any outside assistance," said MSF. "Deceptive use of medical care also endangers those who provide legitimate and essential health services."

The impact of the fake vaccination drive may be keenly felt in Pakistan, where the public already sees an American conspiracy everywhere. Polio campaigns could be at particular risk, as Pakistan has the biggest polio problem in the world.

But again, none of that matters. These are non-people, unpersons, Untermenschen. The only thing that matters is that American elites are made to look tough, willing to do "whatever it takes." The Guardian quotes the usual anonymous Obama Administration official defending the use of innocent children as human shields for black ops:

The US official said: "The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world's top terrorist, and nothing else. If the United States hadn't shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn't used all tools at its disposal to find Bin Laden."

Yes, inquiring minds want to know: why didn't the United States abuse and exploit and endanger even more innocent children to find bin Laden? (Aside from the thousands of children killed in the post-9/11 Terror Wars, of course.) Thank god the Peace Laureate and his people have more "creativity" than his cloddish predecessors!

Oh, and what was the upshot of this "creativity"? I mean, sure, they put the poorest children in Abbotabad at grave risk of suffering, and yeah, they endangered vaccination and health programs and medical workers all over the world -- but hey, the fake vaccine thing worked, didn't it? It helped them get bin Laden, didn't it?

Er, no. Like so much else in the Terror War -- indeed, like the Terror War in its entirety -- the CIA human shield operation in Abbotabad was a busted flush. The whole thing was designed to suck blood from bin Laden's children to get the DNA that would confirm his presence in the house -- but it didn't even do that. As the New York Times reports:

The American official said that the doctor managed to temporarily gain access to the compound, but that he never saw Bin Laden and was not successful in getting DNA samples from any Bin Laden family members.

Endangering children, increasing mistrust and instability around the world, militarizing medicine, polluting every notion of a greater common good or human fellow-feeling -- and all for absolutely nothing (aside from the perpetuation of the pointless dominance of a witless, brutal, all-devouring elite): that pretty much sums up the foreign policy of our rotting, blundering, bankrupt empire.

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